The Real Yellow Journalism

Recently by Brian Wilson: (Reality) Check, Please

What happened in The Blade Jan. 8 (and counting) is called Yellow Journalism. There are multiple definitions, even a history for the term, but the best and most appropriate is found at Wikipedia:

“Yellow journalism [is] a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, ‘Yellow Journalism’ is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.”

This concisely describes The Blade’s concerted attempt to pass off as “news,” first on its website, sometimes splashing above-the-fold-complete-with-color-picture headlines such as “WSPD host compares TPS students, monkeys; Wilson denies racism.” The Blade has printed more than 4,500 words to incite civil rights leaders, community leaders and readers into believing I made racist comments, that I compared TPS students to monkeys. It never happened; I never said it. Amazingly unnoticed, unreported and unremarked is that “race” was never any component of my commentary. Race only became an “issue” when inserted via the jaundiced opinions of Blade political writer Tom Troy and the editors of The Blade. They did it purposefully, with malice.

The only complete, objective and accurate account can be found in Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller’s Jan. 16 column, “Monkey Business.”

As the “story” unraveled, TFP readers and WSPD listeners learned The Blade’s yellow print had zero to do with TPS students, monkeys or racism. More noteworthy were the Herculean efforts by Troy, some other scribbling wannabes and their co-conspiring editors to blatantly finesse members of the African-American community, including Mayor Mike Bell, into providing “substance” for their pre-written headline blaring “community outrage.” Manipulating the opinion of readers is standard with every issue of The Blade.

But there is a greater scandal and bigger problem for Toledoans than The Blade’s reporters, columnists, editors and Pittsburgh-based publisher’s serial raping of facts and sodomizing of truth. It is the Pavlovian reaction of too many citizens – some in so-called “leadership roles” – to swallow whole the mistruths, half-truths and outright lies regularly featured in the daily paper.

As revealed by TFP reporting, none of those who had their “outrage” quoted by The Blade had actually heard my comments in real time, only the 14 second outtake Troy schlepped around town, trolling for indignity and insult. Quoting Miller: “So unless you heard the comment live (which apparently none of the quoted leaders did), or caught it overnight during the Web streaming repeat of the broadcast, your only source for the content was The Blade’s race-baiting reporting.” (Italics added). Not to be overemphasized is the fact WSPD received no complaints from any source as a result of my comments – until The Blade’s manufactured “news.”

How could these people – especially “community leaders” – not know the perpetual motives of The Blade and its Myrmidons and its rich history of abusing the First Amendment to carry out vendettas against those who dare challenge its decades of control and influence over Toledo and its citizens?

Since the quoted parties knee-jerked in unison responding to The Blade’s race-baiting, is it a scandal of ignorance or a scandal of fear? Could these “community leaders” really be that functionally illiterate – like too many TPS graduates – to not suspect an ulterior motive when presented with a sensational “quote” supplied by a reporter for a paper with such a notorious reputation? Or just as malignant, do they live in fear of not providing a juicy quote, possibly incurring the wrath of The Blade’s well-known retribution? Either way, the best interests of Toledo citizens – and students – were not served by their comments. Some were offended, yes – because they allowed themselves to be manipulated by the mis- and dis-information manufactured by The Blade.

And here lies the problem: On cue, everyone bought the snake oil Troy was selling and promptly provided their predictable reactions. More embarrassing for the community, even when presented with the facts by the TFP, TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko, TPS Board President Bob Vasquez, TPS Board Vice President Lisa Sobecki and past president of TPS Parent Congress Chris Varwig adamantly preferred The Blade’s distortion to truth.

What message of objectivity does this send to parents and students? All are part of the TPS problem that has been the focus of WSPD programming, which has diligently – and accurately – exposed years of scholastic failure of Toledo public schools, the fiscal irresponsibility of the Board, the financial millstone of TFT Union contracts, the adolescent infighting of its members and the shoddy treatment of parents and public. Could it be their breathless indignation served as a convenient smokescreen to their culpability surrounding the real issue of administrative malfeasance at TPS? Is incompetence how elected leaders “lead by example?”

To date, after also being presented with the full text and content of my comments, TPS board member Larry Sykes and NAACP President Rev. Kevin Bedford have not publicly clarified their position.

Sadly for Toledo, these are your “leaders,” drum majors for Ineptitude On Parade, charged with administering public education for Toledo, hiding behind a man-made smoke screen of lies and deceit. With these examples, only the willfully obtuse could not understand why “dysfunctional” modifies “TPS” so well.

As reported in TFP, Bell, Greater Toledo Urban League’s John Jones and others who initially demanded apologies, my termination, even FCC sanctions, subsequently acknowledged they had reacted only to an edit provided by Troy.

Jennifer Sorgenfrei, public information officer for the City of Toledo, told TFP, “[The mayor’s] statement was in direct response to the portion of audio he was provided by The Blade.” That “portion of audio” was the 14 seconds Troy surgically removed to rile his “reliable” stable of respondents.

Troy is ‘proud’

The latest milk-spitting episode is the recent arrival of a Jan. 23 letter to TFP’s Miller from the perpetrator himself. Alternating between “irrational” and “fallacious”, Troy makes a limp eight-point attempt to parse Miller’s critical “Monkey Business” column, selectively objecting to the damning evidence. Around No. 5, Troy revs up:

“Brian Wilson is the one that threw out the monkey reference. He’s a professional. He knows what the word connotes when he’s talking about how to teach students in Toledo Public Schools.”

Troy demonstrates he is deaf, delusional or both with his selective listening techniques. When exposed in print, they reveal The Blade’s witch-hunt mentality. Fact: the “monkey-student” connection, generated exclusively by Troy, lives on in the dank recesses of his prejudice. In my on-air discussion with Jones (podcast at, he and others had no problem making the distinction contrary to Troy’s ugly fantasy.

Then, Troy achieves liftoff: “Anyway, it was a bad analogy. Monkeys don’t need to be taught to peel bananas. They do it instinctively, like swinging on vines. It’s not a parlor trick. Teaching dogs to walk on their hind legs or dolphins to balance a beach ball on their noses would be parlor tricks, and would have made Wilson’s point without the egregious offensiveness – or at least less offensively. But no, we have to go with monkeys.”

“We?” With a keen sense for the obvious, again Troy (un)wittingly shares his condescending elitist mentality alongside his dearth of “reporter’s objectivity.” He anoints himself judge and jury of good/bad analogies, lecturing on animal instincts and what constitutes his personal preferences for “less offensive” point making.

“Finally, I am very proud of The Blade’s handling of this story and of my own part in it,” Troy wrote.

Wow. Are you ready to renew your Blade subscription?

My friend Thomas Sowell wrote: “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”

Who do you want to decide? You – or Tom Troy and the bigoted Blade?

The takeaway

So what’s the “takeaway?” Since this originally only concerned the efficacy of TPS teaching standards, has The Blade’s systemic lying, intentional smearing and flat-out unapologetic admission taught us anything?

For one, there is an obvious prejudicial “rush to judgment” imbedded in Toledo, its politicians and what passes for “journalists” at the local daily and certain area TV news departments. Coupled with that is a daunting paucity of intellectual curiosity about most anything that remotely challenges the stultifying ignorance of too many area “leaders.” Those revealed in this latest Blade fiction should remember the words of another friend, author James Bovard: “A surplus of lies naturally produces a deficit of trust.”

Is this what you want for Toledo?

Positive note

On a positive note, more and more Toledoans are to be congratulated for learning the lessons about The Blade as it shrinks in size, content and relevance. They’ve discovered a multitude of better sources for their news needs along the “Information Highway.” As evidenced by this sordid event, there is the Toledo Free Press and, dare I say, 1370 AM WSPD; both have news departments devoted to factual accuracy, adherence to the principles of journalism and a shared concern for improving the quality of life in the Toledo metropolitan area.

The “presentation” may occasionally rankle – but facts are not altered or comments “yanked” out of context.

And, by the way, they’re both free.

Reprinted with permission from the Toledo Free Press.